One arbitrary scroll of LinkedIn and you’ll stumble upon more articles with ‘data’ in their title than you can shake a virtual stick at. On the one hand, it’s a good thing; data needs to be stripped of its salacious reputation and a big hairy light must be shone upon just how easily it can be addressed.
On the other hand, the downside to everyone weighing in on the debate poses the potential for ‘data’ to become a saturated subject. You only have to look at the industry press highlighting that ‘Security Fatigue’ has set in because of the sheer wealth of questions and challenges it produces (resulting in a disengaged and frankly punch-drunk audience).
We simply can’t let that happen with data – it’s too important to not get right. The message needs to be simplified; all data is not created equal. It’s time for us all to stop dancing around our handbags and give the market clearer guidance on what ‘good’ looks like.
First things first: let’s separate out what needs to be addressed, not the marketing interpretation of the vendors, no. What are the issues that every organisation need to get their hands around?
Step one is to literally get to ‘know your data’. We appreciate that could sound strange, so to clarify - to do this effectively, it’ll require a dynamic index that describes what the data actually is: can I find it, who created it, is it secure, how big is it, how do I get hold of it and (wait for it…) when is it safe to delete it? Oh, controversial.
Now this is going to need a radical change in behaviour; a simple index with a limited number of static attributes just won’t cut the mustard. A rich, broad, scalable index is what’s really needed to collect, modify, organise, access and easily serve up data objects. It also needs to recognise ‘content’ that resides within that data object, or it may as well go home.
To ‘federate’ your information is the ability to protect, recover, move, find and deliver apps spanning multiple infrastructures wherever it lives; whether it be cloud, on-premise, SaaS, you name it. The most important factor is to be able to use and access data without having to move it. Knowing where to find your information is not only critical for recovery but also for DR, test dev, and not to mention business analytics.
You only have to listen to the market to know that the perceived requirement to move data from the cloud to on-premise (and vice-versa), cloud-to-cloud, are all on the rise (and showing no signs of slowing down).
The net result is that the need to ‘manage data where it resides’ has never been greater. It is perfectly achievable to protect, use and access information without ever having to move it; anyone that says otherwise is probably still an avid believer in flux capacitors.
The ability to mobilise data ‘to-and-from’ the device is frankly cards-at-the-table. Take the simple example of ‘file, sync and share’ which, since time immemorial, has produced challenges for most organisations. Why? Because users will favour apps like Box, Dropbox in the interests of ‘getting the job done’ which is a well-known bedfellow of risk.
The reality is, anything that sits outside an organisations own governance puts valuable information at risk. And let’s face it, until something hits the fan or worse, the headlines, it can go undiscovered for a very long time which is well…really bad.
The answer is however simple - employ technology that takes into account the way users operate in the real world, provide decent levels of encryption, back up to prevent data loss and in the event that the device is lost or stolen, have the ability to wipe the device.
Governance is only increasing in complexity, and trust us, it’s going nowhere, so you may as well hit it head-on by setting auditable policies on your data that you control. It requires the highest level of orchestration and automation policy enforcement across the enterprise (which you can only achieve if it is federated beneath one corporate governance capability).
The increasing sophistication of cyber-crime means that the need to secure your data within the firewall has never been greater and when it comes to accessing data, you can do far worse than abide by three basic principles. Are they who they say they are? Do they have the authority/right to access? And lastly, is the information secure, encrypted and password protected?
When it comes to staying one step ahead of the bad guys, however, there’s no such thing as a silver bullet. To outsmart a sophisticated adversary, you need to employ 'a series of security practices’ and solutions. Or raise and train three dragons…that could also work.
The topic of data has undoubtedly enjoyed its fair share of industry headlines. We have collectively created a monster with an insatiable appetite that needs feeding and, let’s be honest, expects instant gratification.
The truth is though, it’s only a monster if you don’t take the time to understand it. It is just information, which if looked after and managed well, will return the favour with an abundance of value - which is after all, what it was created for.
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